Rated 4.0

Redbelt has some typical David Mamet (writer/director) stuff in it: criminals and con men, some tough talk and a few twists of film noir, oddball suspense and a zigzagging plot, assorted quirky takes on male pride, the battle of the sexes, and clashing codes of honor. But it is also somewhat atypical in that script and dialogue are not foremost among its strengths, which here are more a matter of the pared-down intensity of the cinematic staging and the brisk, efficient dynamics of Chiwetel Ejiofor’s multifaceted performance in the central role. Mike Terry (Ejiofor) is the paradoxical martial-arts instructor at the center of the storm of Mamet’s wildly elaborated plot, and in the end his vigorous calm and hyperkinetic authority are most of whatever proves at least partly true, and definitely engaging, in the feverish course of Redbelt’s convoluted tale. It’s the dazzling combination of character acting and martial-arts moves that brings it all home, for better or worse.